In this post we’re privileged to offer free downloads of lyrics, MIDI and sheet music by one of our local composers (and yes, we are planning another Local Voices songwriting workshop series in September-October 2016 – see details at the end of the post). Michael Watkins writes about his new hymn “Welcome to this table”:
“Welcome to this table,” both the words and the music (‘Lithgow’) arose out of the 2015 ‘Local Voices’ workshop. In many ways it was the fulfilment of a long-term dream to write my own hymn about Holy Communion.
Some years ago I was talking with the (then) minister of my congregation and our (then) choir director. My minister expressed a desire for the congregation to learn new Communion hymns, as its repertoire from Together in Song was somewhat limited. From that moment I decided that I would one day write a hymn suitable for Holy Communion.
Fast forward to 2015, and there I was enrolled in the Local Voices workshop. Writing a Communion hymn was at the front of my mind. After the first session, I reflected on the principles taught, looking for a way to create my hymn. In writing the words, I wanted them to be meaningful for Christians in the 21st century. After some thinking, both about the process of writing lyrics and the traditions of Holy Communion, the words starting flowing. Within about an hour, I had three verses and a refrain. I revisited my words over the next few days, but made only minor changes. This part of the process was far easier than I had expected.
The music process took much longer. I started with the melody in the refrain, and then looked to develop this somewhat in the verses. This came about by experimentation, trying different things to hear what sounded right.
In writing the music, I recalled something the late theologian Marcus Borg said in his book, The Heart of Christianity. According to Borg, worship is about participation. He goes on to say that every member of a congregation should be able to participate in singing a hymn (to name one aspect of worship) regardless of their musical background. I therefore wanted the tune to be ‘singable’ by everyone in a congregation using my hymn.
Having said this, I did want to include full choral harmony. Part of this was about my own musical training, where I spent much time learning about harmony (with grateful thanks to my piano teacher). The other part was because I spend time with church choirs (both my own and The Mustard Seeds) both of whom largely sing in 4-parts.
This was not so easy – the rules of harmony are such that meticulous attention to detail is required. No matter how careful you are, one small mistake can lead to many others and having to rework significant sections. However, with being careful and some help along the way, I had a hymn that was ready for a congregation.
I have been fortunate enough to introduce my hymn both at St Luke’s and at my home congregation of The Avenue (Blackburn). I am looking forward to singing and playing it again at St Luke’s on Easter Day.
I dream of writing other hymns in the future. Perhaps the next one will be something appropriate for Advent. I’ll wait and see….
Lyrics for “Welcome to this table” are here Welcome to this table (lyrics)
A sound sample for Lithgow is here Welcome to this table (LITHGOW)
Edit: some people have had trouble downloading and listening to the MIDI, so here’s an mp3 you can play:
Full sheet music is available by contacting Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Welcome to this table” will be sung at the 9:30am service on Easter Sunday 2016.
The Local Voices 2016 songwriting workshop will be held Sundays 4-6pm from 25 September to 16 October. Details and an enrolment form are coming soon to the website, or if you’re keen, contact Katrina Dowling.
Related posts: Local Voices Songwriting Workshops (reflection on the 2015 workshops)